On Tuesday of last week it rained heavily at all levels for much of the day and it was really warm. Since then it has been a lot colder, lots of snow has fallen and ice is starting to form quite well. All the water in the ground has been dribbling out of the cracks and down the gullies, mixing with the snow that's been swirling around and cascading down the crags, to form some nice looking snow-ice. Last night gave us a frost as well with odd showers of rain at low levels so we started off with a really awkward bit of ice on the tracks and trails. Susanne and I put our crampons on just a couple of hundred metres up the Allt a Mhuilinn path and kept them on all day.
Susanne has done a lot of trekking in Nepal and is away to have a go at Mera Peak in March. She was here to get some experience of wearing crampons and of doing the kind of ropework she'll need to do in Nepal. On Monday we went up Stob Ban North Ridge which was a wade fest in the soft snow above 400m! Yesterday we went to the Pink Rib of Beinn a'Chrulaiste which had a good amount of snow on it even though it has been facing the wind. Walking down was another plod through thick deep snow, even at 650m above sea level. Today we went up to the CIC Hut under the North Face of Ben Nevis and enjoyed the good path and a trail in the snow! We had a go at glacier travel ropework just above the hut. There is so much snow there it felt just like being on a glacier!
All the major gullies on Ben Nevis are full of snow and the boulder fields in the corries are covered as well. There are sizeable soft cornices above the gullies and the snow is all soft with lots of windslab. Avoid the gullies for a while! Snow-ice climbs are starting to form some ice. Point Five Gully and Hadrians Wall Direct have a little ice on them. After the thaw freeze cycles forecast over the next few days, we might have some climbing to do. There is also ice forming nicely on routes such as Gemini, Waterfall Gully and Boomers Requiem.
The crags are white and have a very good cover of snow and rime on them. There might well be ice in the cracks making mixed climbing tricky and slow going, and wading up to the crags will be hard work. The big ridges are well covered and will be lovely to climb after the snow has been transformed into snow-ice. If we get the right combination of thaw and freeze over the next week or so, we will have some great conditions for climbing. The long term forecast suggests a return to colder conditions after Christmas. Fingers crossed it all works out!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.